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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. Scott Olson/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS (LifeSiteNews) — Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law earlier this month that allows for parents and community members to challenge books that they find “obscene” or “harmful to minors” in school libraries. 

According to provisions of H.B. 1447, public schools and charter schools in the state would have to create a database detailing all their inventory on their websites and create a procedure that would allow for parents and community members to submit a request to remove a book. The local school board would then have to review the request and discuss it at the next public school board meeting and establish an appeals process if it disagrees with the request. Holcomb signed the bill on May 4. 

READ: Illinois passes bill to defund libraries that keep sexually explicit books away from children

The bill specifically allows for parents and community members to challenge books that are “harmful to minors,” which the Indiana State Code defines as anything representing nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sado-masochistic abuse, that appeals to the “prurient interest in sex of minors,” is considered “offensive to adult standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors,” and lacks any “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to minors.”

If a given challenge is accepted but not heeded by a library, the offending librarian could face felony charges with a penalty of up to two and a half years in prison, the Indianapolis Star reported 

Previously, librarians could argue that a book should be kept in a school library strictly for “educational” purposes, and state law already barred students for having access to such material. 

The provisions of the bill were previously considered by the Indiana legislature twice, though they died in the House on both occasions, the first time as a state Senate bill that died in the state House and the second time as a proposed amendment to a different Senate bill that died in a House committee. The current provisions of H.B. 1447 were inserted with the approval of both houses of the Indiana legislature in the final hours of the 2023 legislative session late last month into a bill that dealt with third-party surveys in schools. 

In a statement about the bill, Holcomb said that he viewed the bill as a way to keep materials in school libraries “age appropriate.” “[H.B.] 1447 improves transparency and supports efforts to provide age-appropriate material in our libraries and I am happy that these decisions will continue to take place at the local level,” Holcomb said. 

Across the nation, controversy has exploded in recent years over schools and libraries adopting books that attempt to expose sexual themes and activity to children, often in graphic detail and with pornographic imagery depicting specific sex acts. 

In September 2021, for instance, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in northern Virginia banned Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison for containing graphic depictions of homosexual activity. The books were eventually placed back on school library shelves in November.  

The issue, along with the promotion of ideological messages in taxpayer-funded education, has in fueled a parent backlash that has been credited with Republican gains in states like Florida and Virginia, whose current respective governors have taken leading roles in fighting back. 

Holcomb’s decision to sign H.B. 1447 contrasts with that of Illinois lawmakers to pass a bill making schools that remove pornographic material from their libraries ineligible for state grants.